The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople
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Tucked away in the predominantly Muslim country of Turkey, in its major city, Istanbul, we find a very important, yet still popularly unknown center of Christianity. This relatively small complex comprised of a handful of three-story buildings and a somewhat humble church is where the Ecumenical Patriarchate fulfills its work both for the faithful in Constantinople (now Istanbul) and for the faithful worldwide that fall under its jurisdiction as well as being the beacon of light of Orthodoxy to not only the world, but also to the self-run and patriarchal Orthodox churches.
The Ecumenical Patriarchate seems to be a protector of true Orthodoxy, and a recent example would be calling hierarchical elections of the Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia into question, which then removed the Church of the Czech lands and Slovakia from the world Orthodox conversations, particularly the smaller council that has now agreed to have a Great and Holy Council in 2016.
This humble, yet austere, complex of the Patriarchate houses the hierarchs, priests, deacons, other employees and sometimes interns. They house vats of the Holy Chrism, which is produced on site roughly once every ten years, for the majority of the Orthodox world to use (only the Churches of Russia, Belgrade and Bucharest produce their own Chrism). This symbol of unity between the Orthodox world is extremely powerful. Many times this gets misinterpreted as Churches “pledging their allegiance” to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, but this is not the reality, considering that the Patriarchate does not try to have more involvement in the Churches that participate.
The Church of St. George, located on the premises of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, will not wow you like some of the earlier Churches which are now all either museums or mosques in Istanbul, but spiritually it is extremely significant. This is the Patriarchal Church and it is filled with wonderful things, such as the returned relics from 2004 of Saints John Chrysostom and Gregory the Theologion, the majority of the in-corrupt body of St. Euphemia, relics of St. Theophano and St. Solomone, some preserved mosaic icons from the 11th century, the icon of Panagia Faneromeni (which miracles have been performed through), and lastly a substantial portion of the column in which Christ was whipped against. For a persecuted (even crucified) Church, such as that of Constantinople, it is amazing to see the things that have been saved and preserved for us to venerate.
The patriarchate has a monthly gathering of hierarchs, 6 from the Church of Constantinople and 6 from the Churches under the Patriarchate worldwide (including the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America). This synod has subcommittees, which include other employees of the patriarchate who would then send reports to the Holy Synod. Some of the subcommittees include work on ecology (environmental problems), Mount Athos (as the Patriarch is Co-Head of State there), and other ministries throughout the world.
About Andrew Athanasiou
Andrew is a student of Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, located in Brookline, Massachusetts. Andrew is a Masters of Divinity Student who is also a Seminarian. Andrew is from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and his knowledge comes from five major sources: Greek Orthodox Seminary; Greek Orthodox Summer Camp; both being taught and teaching in Greek Orthodox Sunday School; and finally further readings and interests in other theological areas.
Categorized in: Greek Orthodox Religious Information
This post was written by Andrew Athanasiou